Thursday, May 06, 2010

A Parable and a Prayer

The Parable: In a town very similar to ours – small southern college town – there was a church very similar to ours – Baptist, running between 300 and 400 in Sunday School, with people almost as warm and friendly as our people, giving to missions both through the SBC and the CBF, with two different “styles” of Sunday morning worship. It’s difficult for a new-in-town business-person (we’ll call her Faith, just to help the story to flow) to remain anonymous in a church like that in a town like that … nor did Faith want to remain anonymous. She joined after having visited for several weeks, not because it was good for business and she wanted to be seen in church, but because she knew that she had found a place where she could be encouraged in her journey and give the same grace-gift to others.

A few months later, conversation with a new acquaintance out in the community turned to the subject of church (as it often does in a town similar to ours). Her new friend asked Faith if she had found a local church to connect with. Faith replied that she had joined XYZ Baptist Church and had been an active member there for the better part of a year. She talked about how warmly she had been received into the fellowship, and how at home the people had made her feel. The new acquaintance was surprised to learn that since she also was a very active member in the same church, so she asked Faith which worship service she attended. Faith’s answer was met with a look of prejudicial pity and a curtly derisive, “Oh … I’m sorry;” as if there were something wrong with preferring the “other” style of worship.

The Prayer: What I hope and pray for with our people is not an either/or, but a both/and when it comes to “styles” of worship. We need to understand that it is not like a coin that has two sides, but rather like a many-faceted geometric solid, bigger and more varied than we can possibly imagine. Impoverished are we who limit ourselves to just one or two of the myriad facets ... in ALL of which God may be glorified. It breaks my heart that some of our people deliberately choose poverty in this area … that they refuse to even think about seeking to understand and experience something different from a certain “style.” True, we will spend most of our time in a select few of those facets (those places that feel like home) … that’s normal and healthy. But please let us be open to traveling to those places that feel like home to others ... and let us also resolve to treat others as honored guests when they travel to those places that feel like home to us.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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